Wow, that was quick - shortly after Take-Two announced the Red Dead Online beta would end within the next two months, it's happened. The game is leaving beta today, and is celebrating with a major new content update that introduces new co-op missions, expands Free Roam, and (importantly) adds poker. You'll never adventure outside the gambling room again.
In Rockstar's update post, the developer thanked "everyone who participated during the beta period".
"Your feedback has been instrumental in helping us fine tune the game so far with many of your suggestions implemented in today's update, and we will continue to implement more of your feedback in future updates to come."
So, what's in this one? Alongside an overhaul of the hostility system to reduce griefing (which we already knew about), players can expect to see expansions to the Jessica LeClerk story campaign with both honourable and dishonourable missions. On the good boah path, players battle the Del Lobos gang and help Tom Davies save Valentine, while the path of evil leads to a highway robbery and bank theft. Either way, you wind up at Blackwater "with a dangerous adversary". I don't know what this says about morality.
In the Free Roam department, Rockstar has added characters from the story of Red Dead Redemption 2, along with new mission types such as Destroy, Jailbreak and Stolen Wagon. The dubious characters in question include Thomas the Skiff Captain and the Abderdeen pig farmers.
Importantly, dynamic events are now a thing, meaning you can now stumble across the kind of random encounters found in Red Dead's story mode. Can't wait to suck venom out of someone's foot again - although at least in Online I'll be able to get cash, gold or XP for it as well as honour.
But what about poker? Like in story mode, you'll be able to find poker tables scattered across towns and outposts across the map. If you want to keep the game exclusive, you can create a private invite-only game of Hold 'Em, or take on strangers at a public table where the "buy-ins and rewards are even higher".
If you're not the gambling type, posse versus has been expanded to include activities such as fishing, bird shooting and herb picking, so you can compete with your friends to see who's the best hunter-gatherer. Dinner and a show.
Finally, in terms of balances, Rockstar has removed the PVP-related daily challenges (which previously received criticism for encouraging griefing) while gold payouts have been "increased across the board with most gold-earning activities now awarding up to double the previous amount". Hopefully this will help Red Dead Online's economy feel a little more generous - another aspect frequently criticised in the past.
These only cover some of the changes brought in the update: if you want to really dig into every tiny change, make sure to give the patch notes a read.
Despite the size of this update, this is apparently "just the beginning", and Rockstar promises plenty further improvements are to come. This includes tweaking existing content, and "brand new experiences that establish a deeper, more immersive connection to the world and your character". It's good to see Rockstar is taking community feedback on board, and hopefully Red Dead Online will finally become an experience to rival its story counterpart.